A heavy heart may be the weightiest thing we lug around. It is so hard to forge ahead when we are laden with despair, sadness, fear and regrets. Our endless romanticizing of what could have been, what should have been, keeps us bound to the past with little hope for tomorrow. Instead of burying yesterday, we bury the future and its possibilities by encumbering them with our gripes against what life has “done” to us and how unfairly G-d and circumstance have treated us.
I, too, feel tempted to cry when I look at the grim parts of my life that are unbeknownst to my readers. And so, the tears flow easily when I read this week’s final chapter in the Torah which speaks of Moses’ death. Poor Moses. After all he did for humanity and for God, how unfair it seems that he never got to enter the Holy Land. Every year, when I read the text, I hope that the ending will miraculously be different.
But just three verses after mentioning the passing of Moses, the greatest prophet of all time, the Torah tells us that the people mourned for him for 30 days and then the mourning was over. There is definitely a lesson to be learned here for us all: Mourning and sadness, even over the loss of one as great as Moses, must have limits. We have to always move onward and upward.
Moses’ final words to the nation of Israel were not recriminations for past behaviors, nor nostalgic sentiments. He parted this world with blessings for the future, a future we must embrace with enthusiasm and faith. When we cater to despair, we are worshiping the angel of death; when we cling to hope and refresh our hearts, it is then we have a chance to grasp the Tree of Life.
It is customary on the Jewish holiday of Simchas Torah to read the first chapter of Genesis, which speaks of the creation of the world, immediately after reading the final chapter of Deuteronomy, describing the death of Moses. This, too, is symbolic of the course our own personal lives should take. Goodbyes don’t have to lead us to dead ends, but rather can bring us to new portals and fresh chances.
Every ending contains within it a new beginning. Every pain and emotional hurt contains within the energy and force to be redirected and used in positive pursuits. So take your despair off of life support and instead give a new dose of oxygen to love, faith, hope, courage, optimism and joy to animate your days and life ahead. As for the past, take the best and leave the rest!